This is Your Brain on Information

A few years ago I remember hearing that the average New York Times paper had more information in it than the average person in the Middle Ages came across in their lifetime. I had no idea exactly how true that was, but was rather taken aback. I was consuming that amount every day, if not more, what did that mean for who I was as compared to them – my ancestors from not-that-long-ago, relatively well recorded history? Now, I found this in The Week magazine:

“In any two days, human beings create as much information online as it took our species to create in the 30,000 years between the dawn of cave painting and the year 2003. In another 10 years, that same amount of information will be generated in less than one hour.”

That is hard to even respond to. We talk about an information revolution, but I’m not sure that even gets to it. What’s bigger and more impactful than a revolution? An information tsunami? An information blizzard? An information supernova? You’d think with all the information at my disposal, I could come up with something better. Flood?

Now, I will be quick to say (so you don’t have to) that a very, very large percentage of the information we are creating online is useless in any real sense (see this blog). Pretty near 100% of what is posted on Facebook is certainly useless at least beyond the person who posted it. I do not care one tiny iota what an old friend had at The Modern Cafe last night let alone what a perfect stranger had at a restaurant hear them. And there’s plenty of that information being created.

But still it is information and it is being created and if some super highly evolved race is monitoring all of this to learn about our world, we are doing a kickass job of providing for them! They may have dropped in during the Middle Ages and picked up a little gossip, some recipes, how-to information, some religion and left. But now they have some stuff to chew on. The most obscure information is online, the most mundane information is online, some extremely helpful and useful information is online, and much of that useless information. But you’ve got to figure that those astral-planing cats or whatever they are from another world (they may be both) are rather pleased with us. At least, we’re finally giving them something worth planing back for.

So we are here now, surrounded by information, mired in information, overwhelmed by information, informed by information, taught by information, annoyed by information, enraged by information, enraptured by information and so on and so on. It really is a drug. I guess the question now we have to figure out is how we will each consume it, and whether or not we will be consumed by it. Some will be overwhelmed and inspired to the negative (really, think about the school shootings and whether or not all of those kids would every have come to that idea on their own) some will use it enhanced creativity and expanded thought and idea generation. Others will just sit there drunk and vacillate between that rage and rapture.

That’s probably enough information to be added to it all for today by me. Although I would like to add that Facebook is alcohol and Twitter’s a pinch hitter. That one’s for the astral-planing cats to mull over.

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